(CBS Local)– This week marks the 20th anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001 and many around the country and the world are reexamining the events of that day and everything that unfolded in the years after the deadly terrorist attack at the World Trade Center in New York City. Author and journalist Chris Wallace was thinking about all of this for months when he wrote his new book from Simon & Schuster called “Countdown Bin Landen: The Untold Story of the 247-Day Hunt to Bring the Mastermind of 9/11 to Justice.”
The book features detailed reporting about the final eight months of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and features interviews with two members of SEAL Team Six, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, CIA Director Leon Panetta and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith recently spoke to Wallace about the book, what he learned about President Barack Obama’s decision to go after Bin Laden and the decision by the Biden administration to pull U.S. troops out of Afghanistan.READ MORE: Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, 1 Of 13 Service Members Killed In Kabul Suicide Bomb Attack, Memorialized At Riverside Church
“The key players when it was happening didn’t know what was going to happen with all of the uncertainty, all of the doubts and all of the questions,” said Wallace. “Almost everybody who was involved with the decision from CIA Director Leon Panetta to all the top people in the White House to Admiral William McRaven, who was the head of Joint Special Operations Command, to a couple of the SEALs in SEAL Team Six, who were on the raid, including the man in Rob O’Neill who actually killed Bin Laden. I interviewed them all at great length. The book starts on August 27, 2010, when a couple of people came into Panetta’s office of the CIA and say we have a lead about where Bin Laden might be.”
The one person Wallace didn’t get to interview for the book was President Obama, but he did eventually chat with the 44th President in private after writing the book. The author and journalist learned a ton in his research and interviews and he says years passing since these events allowed him to have more access to people and documents he would not have been able to access if he wrote the book years ago.READ MORE: George W. Bush To Speak in Beverly Hills, Long Beach
“When I talked to a couple of the SEALs, including Rob O’Neill, he said I viewed this as a one way ticket. He said this was a suicide mission. He said if Bin Laden was there, there was no chance we were coming home alive. Either the entire compound was going to be booby-trapped or when we went up in the main house where we thought Bin Laden was, there would be all kinds of Al-Qaeda bodyguards who would throw all kinds of stuff at us. Another thing is they never had a hard, firm case that Bin Laden was in the compound. It was always circumstantial. They never had a positive ID that Osama Bin Landen was living in that compound.”
“They went around the room in the Situation Room on the final day April 28, 2011 on a Thursday afternoon and President Obama is asking all of his top people…. Biden, who was against doing the raid, Robert Gates, the Secretary of Defense, who was against doing the raid and on and on. Some of them were saying there’s a 30% chance, some of them were saying there’s a 70% chance. At one point, President Obama looks over at the Deputy CIA Director named Mike Morell and he says explain all of these different percentages.”
“He said it depends on where you’ve been and how much success you’ve had, but he said the case that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when we invaded, that case was stronger than this one,” said Wallace. “There was absolute silence in the room. Everyone thought that if the case for weapons of mass destruction, which didn’t turn out to be true, is stronger, he’s [President Obama] is never going to do it. The President, who was probably the smartest consumer of intelligence and information in the room, said this is a 50-50 proposition. He’s either there or he’s not there. Then he said I’ll let you know in the morning. He went up to his family quarters and he had a basketball game on. It was the Lakers and Kobe Bryant playing the Charlotte Hornets. He stayed up late at night and thought about it and the next morning he went to his top aides and said it is a go.”MORE NEWS: Biker With Several Felony Warrants Arrested In Westminster
“Countdown Bin Laden” is available now wherever books are sold.